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Guidelines issued for treating lung disease

(CNN) -- Two major health organizations have released the first global guidelines for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the World Health Organization, who have collaborated on the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disorder (GOLD), made the announcement in London and Tokyo Wednesday.

The new guidelines, which recommend effective COPD management and prevention strategies, are meant to raise awareness of COPD in the medical community and in the general public. The guidelines are also meant to increase proper diagnosis and treatment of COPD and better prevent lung disease in the first place.


"They wanted to get all the issues on the table in order to attack the concerns for the problem of smoking and lung disease worldwide," Dr. Stanley Fiel said of the initiative. Fiel is chief of pulmonary critical care at MCP Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

COPD is currently the fourth leading cause of death in the world, according to the report issued by the health organizations. Of the top five killer diseases in the United States, COPD is the only disease on the rise.

COPD is an umbrella term used to describe chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which lead to a slow deterioration of lung function. There is no known cure.

Sixteen million people in the United States are diagnosed with COPD each year, while a similar number live with the disease without knowing it.

The most frequent cause of the disease is cigarette smoking, which accounts for 80 percent to 90 percent of all cases, the report said. A smoker is 10 times more likely than a non-smoker to die from COPD. Other risk factors include secondhand smoke, heredity, air pollution and a history of childhood respiratory infections.

The report also found that newer, inhaled bronchodilators, which last up to 12 hours, are more effective than older versions. Patients are more likely to take their medication "if you have to take your medicine twice a day, rather than three to four times a day," said Fiel.

Guidelines already exist in the United States and a few other countries, "but this is the first set of evidence-based guidelines," said Fiel, who added that NHLBI and WHO wanted to get a global perspective on COPD.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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